When Columbus reached North America, he set up a path for immigrants to move to America. He laid the tracks which lead to the colonization of North America and the development of the United States. The colonist took over the Native’s land, and labeled it as their own, which converted their status from Immigrants to natives. The Colonist became the natives in a way, and everyone coming into the country became an immigrant.
People have always been looking far and wide for a better life. It might include crossing state lines and sometimes even international borders. The pursuit of happiness has led many astray and stuck in places they never imagined, for some it has led to fortunes that were in the past never imaginable. Such is the gamble one takes when they leave their home and their country in the pursuit for something bigger.
I moved to the United State in the end of 2009. I never thought of the word immigrant as describing me when I was moving here but I suppose it describes my process accurately. Leaving home and entering a new country, filled with challenges and opportunities. I found many others like me, some even from my own city back home. I realized that most of us have had similar problems when moving here and often faced the same stereotyping. From questions like, do you guys ride camels? To being told to go back to my country, I have heard a broad array of questions and statements that Indian Immigrants face. The idea of moving to the United States is amazing in theory and brings joys to millions. But in reality the actual process of uprooting your life, family and friends and moving to a new country is quiet hard. Getting accustomed to the places, people, language and culture can be quite a shocking and a lengthy process. I feel the language barrier was the hardest to overcome and something I feel most immigrants go through. I believe your level of education and exposure directly relates to how you will do when they land here. It is definitely a hard process but being educated in an English-medium school definitely helps smoothen out the process.
I also feel that the status and description of an Indian Immigrant has changed over time in popular culture. I will interrogate a show from the late 70’s called “Mind your Language” and see how it differentiates from the modern show “The Big Bang Theory.” I will also use other artifacts to confirm my analysis of the primary sources.
Mind your Language started in the 1970s on British TV network. It was an instant hit, so much so that it was one of Britain’s most exported TV show. It was also sold for local reproduction to many other counties like India, Australia, Singapore and Pakistan. It showcased an Evening adult college which focused on English, as a foreign language, so the students were from various countries of the world.
One of the episodes starts up with a Muslim man, named Ali, walking into class late and announcing that he will be leaving the college as he had won a lot of money betting on horse races. All the students were delighted and hugged Ali for his good fortune, except Ramjeet who is a Sikh Indian man. Relations between Muslims and Sikhs were never good back then; there was a lot of violence and bloodshed between the two races in India. Even as immigrants who spoke a common language and came from the same part of the world, they never got along even though they were immigrants in London. Their beliefs and opinions still hold strong and true regardless of their location.
Soon after Mr.Brown, the English teacher takes a look at Ali’s receipt and discovers that he hadn’t won any money. In fact, he had just read the receipt wrong. Ali, heartbroken sits back in his seat and is made fun of by everyone else in class. This process shows us how immigrants back in the 1970s had a lot of problems with the writing, reading and understanding of the English language. This is something that was also prominent in the more recent TV show called “Outsourced” where an American travels to a call center in India to teach the team about Popular American Culture. The team of customer service representatives faced the same challenges faced by Ranjeet from “Mind Your Language.” The show is full of clever and funny stereotyping, without being too offensive.
On the contrary we have people like Mindy Kaling and Aziz Ansari, people of Indian origin who now have their own TV shows and are famous actors in the United States. One would feel that people like Mindy and Aziz are contrary to my thesis; however one has to realize that Mindy and Aziz weren’t immigrants. Mindy was born in Cambridge, MA and Aziz was born in Columbia, SC. Their families moved here generations ago in search of a better life, they were the true immigrants. Being educated and cultured in the US as an adolescent leads to a very Americanized lifestyle.
I feel like this is something every immigrant faces when they move from a non-native English speaking country. Even though English is the medium of education in India, different countries have slightly different dialects and accents, which is something that takes getting used to. This is something that’s is easier to do as a child or young adult as compared to someone in their 40s or 50s due to the plastic nature of young and developing brains.
Exactly after 40years of the premier of “Mind Your Language” a new sitcom comedy show was launched called “The Big Bang Theory.” It is now on its seventh season on CBS and has become an international hit. It features a character named Raj, who is an Indian Astrophysicist. While he is a smart and intelligent PhD student he still has the typical Indian problems like shyness towards girls and issues with his Visa. In one of the episodes Raj finds out that his research has led to a dead end and fears his University will cancel his visa and he would be sent back to India. Sheldon, a friend and fellow scientist comes to his rescue by hiring Raj to work on his research project and extend his visa.
Frequently on the show, Raj faced what he called “Selective Mutism” where he would lose his voice when a pretty girl walked into the room. Raj as a character is very shy and a geek by nature. He loves comic books and video games.
I find it interesting how the representation of an Indian Immigrant has changed over the years. In the show “Mind Your Language” the Indians are represented as not being very intelligent and in-proficient in English. However in the more recent show “The Big Bang Theory” the Indian is depicted as intelligent and much more proficient in English. I feel this is an accurate description of how Indians have evolved in the United States. The school system in India has massively improved over the decades and even smarter individuals are moving out of the country in search for bigger careers. Overall I feel the depiction of my identity in popular culture has been accurately done. There will always be racial comedy attached to my identity but you have to take the good with the bad. The media has become much more sensitive and usually uses racial comedy in an inoffensive and appropriate manner.
How an immigrant does in the United States can be related to their upbringing and schooling in their home country. Growing up in one of the best rated cities in India, I certainly feel I had an advantage when I came here as compared to people from other cities. My education was also exceptional, as I went to an Irish Christian Brother school where English was the only accepted language of communication. Some of my teachers were Irish Brothers who only spoke English, which made learning and being proficient in English important for any kind of academic success. My parents were also open and not concretive as compared to other Indian family which is rare in my country. All these facts, coupled with my exposure to western media via the TV and internet has lead me to feel competent and confident in myself in the United States. It has also led to me a happier and more complete life here, so much so that all the negative stereotypes associated with my identity have never really bothered me. I do acknowledge them and try to learn from them, but that has not stopped me from being a happy immigrant in the United States, which I feel is very rare to find.
- Kirkman, Bill. “Mind Your Language.” The Hindu. N.p., 9 Feb. 2013. Web. <http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/Bill_Kirkman/mind-your-language/article4396750.ece>.
- Peitzman, Louis. “Kunal Nayyar Opens Up, Along With His “Big Bang Theory” Character.”Buzz Feed. N.p., 19 June 2013. Web. <http://www.buzzfeed.com/louispeitzman/kunal-nayyar-opens-up-along-with-his-big-bang-theory-charact>.
- “Mindy Kaling.” IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 12 Mar. 2014. <http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1411676/>.
- “Aziz Ansari.” IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 12 Mar. 2014. <http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2106637/>.
- “Outsourced | NBC.” NBC. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Mar. 2014. <http://www.nbc.com/classic-tv/outsourced>.
- Seitz, Matt Zoller. “Life Lessons in a Global Marketplace.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 27 Sept. 2007. Web. 12 Mar. 2014. <http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/28/movies/28outs.html?_r=2&>.
- Whatley, Monica, and Jeanne Batalova. “Indian Immigrants in the United States.”Migrationpolicy.org. N.p., 31 Aug. 2013. Web. <http://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/indian-immigrants-united-states>.